Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria missed a month last spring with an oblique injury and was hoping for a better start to 2012. He even underwent a procedure in the offseason to address a Morton's neuroma (a condition affecting a nerve between the toes), which nagged him late in 2011, to ensure it would not be a factor this year. It seemed all was on the right track for Longoria, who was batting better than .300 so far this season. On track, that is, until Monday night, when Longoria exited the game with a left leg injury following an awkward pop-up slide into second base.
Originally, Longoria's injury was described as soreness behind the knee, but on Tuesday, the team revealed he had partially torn his left hamstring. Longoria, who said he felt a "tweak" while running from first to second, told MLB.com the slide itself had nothing to do with the injury. Regardless of exactly when or how it happened, the Rays have indicated they expect Longoria to miss between four to eight weeks.
Why the lengthy timetable straight out of the gate? We don't have the benefit of the player being in front of us, nor do we know the specifics of his MRI, but there are a couple of clues. When Longoria reached instinctively to the back of his leg after the injury, he grabbed toward the inside aspect of his knee. If indeed the injury is down low, close to where the hamstring attaches behind the knee, it would suggest the tendon (which anchors the hamstring muscle to the bone) is involved. The tendon does not have the same rich blood supply as the muscle, which results in slower healing. There is also the grade of injury to consider. While all strains are technically tears -- ranging from microscopic to structural tears visible on imaging -- when a team reports an injury as a "partial tear," it usually hints at a Grade 2 or moderate strain, not quite Grade 3 (a complete tear) but more than a Grade 1 (usually inflammation-producing without significant structural damage). The timetable issued appears consistent with a moderate strain.
The primary focus is adequate healing time before returning a player to activity, and that healing time is highly variable. As Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told the Tampa Bay Times, "He's always been a pretty good healer," adding, "He's had some hamstring issues in the past and has come back from them pretty quickly, relatively speaking.''
The "quick" version would have Longoria back in the lineup by the middle of June but, as everyone knows, hamstring injuries can be very finicky, and it could be into July before Longoria is ready.